With engagement regarded as the most important instrument in the IR toolbox, proactively addressing anything that may influence proxy voting groups – whether through company updates, analytics or ESG tactics disclosure – is going to positively contribute to companies’ stakeholder outreach.
This is according to a panel of industry experts in an IR Magazine Webinar, now available to watch on demand.
Panelists looked at the impact of prioritizing ESG reporting and sustainability strategies, teamwork between IR teams and other departments, and useful tools for delivering messaging to stakeholders.
Ashish Kohli, vice president of global IR at General Motors, pointed out that one effective way to engage stakeholders is to tailor communication to different types of investors.
‘Institutional investors, admittedly, are numbers-driven, while the retail group tends to be a little less sophisticated,’ he said. ‘So, for example, with the latter type of investors I don’t think over-indexing on numbers is necessarily the most value-added way to attract them or keep them engaged.’
Kohli added that keeping investors up to date on the company brand and progress with regular emails as well as disclosing information on initiatives such as ESG is an effective way to retain a good level of engagement.
The ESG debate
Although top companies worldwide have publicly embraced ESG as the cornerstone of their stakeholder policies, over the past year the movement has suffered a backlash and faced a wall of resistance. Looking at whether the debate around ESG has changed how companies think about stakeholder engagement, IR professionals believe that while ESG communication is important, it is not a marketing-led effort.
Sylvie Harton global head of strategy, PR and IR solutions at Notified, said that what matters is transparent communication around ESG performance and the delivery of a comprehensive communications strategy.
‘I would argue that transparent communication is more important than it has been before, in large part because both professional and retail investors believe a company’s ESG performance impacts investment decisions,’ she said. ‘So staying ahead of the conversation and interacting across all channels – including social, traditional media and even online forums – is a must today.’
Renee Marquis, IR director at Essential Utilities, noted the importance of optimizing and quickly adjusting to new ways of communication and engagement. That can be achieved by moving away from press releases or emails and thinking outside the box about what’s going to grab the attention of investors, shareholders and stakeholders, she said.
‘Do a long-term plan where you can kind of deliver little pieces at a time,’ she suggested. ‘It’s easier to digest and keeps it top of mind. Keep hitting the same message but maybe delivering a difference piece, or a new piece that could be of interest, because I think repetition is important. Come up with a better communication plan to put it out over time so that it reaches everybody and caters to various audiences.’